Budgerigars as a Colony of Domestic Kept Birdsby Eric Peake
(The Avicultural Journal, 1999, Vol. 22, #2)
BUDGERIGARS are gregarious, promiscuous birds that colonise to breed. Due
to the vast numbers of breeding strains, developed throughout the world in
captivity, we have established some excellent specimens with size and quality.
Naturalists and scientists can question whether size and quality are ideal.
But, in the world of exhibition budgerigars, size and development have been
prime factors for consideration.
In 1789, the first description of the budgerigar became known, then in
1840, the first two birds were brought to the UK, in 1848, the first known
habits of the budgie were described. So you see, for 150 years or so, we have
been keeping the birds in our part of the world. But this is only a fleeting
second compared to the universal time sphere. Therefore, to escape from the
basic breeding pattern of the bird is still well beyond our reach.
You often hear fanciers say, "they are well established in this part of the
world." I think budgerigars are established as a colony of domestic kept
birds, but a long way from the natural instincts of their forefathers. It is
interesting to know that in the wild, budgies can go for two years without
breeding. We get into fits of despair if our birds go one season without
producing, strange, isn't it?
Because budgies are a group type of bird, family and relations are usually
in a yearly unit. In the wild the birds form a colony of family groups, the
young of that season form a creche from which pairs are selected for future
In captivity, we continually split the groups, thus breaking the 'pecking
order' of superiority in adult birds. This surely cannot do the group much
good for selective breeding. The fancier is often told, form a stud of related
birds, line breed and in-breed. This can only be done if relationships can
bond the unit together. The selection of pairs is important to create your
future birds. It is only by allowing the colony to keep together all the 'good
birds' that we start to achieve our goal in co-operation with nature.
It is always advisable to have a set group of colonies, such as Grey, Grey
Green, Light Green and Skyblue, in Normal and Opaline. Many fanciers choose to
breed so many varieties that success in developing a certain colour, will be
hindered by cross-genetic matings. Do not breed too many varieties. If you
like the specialist groups, such as Pieds, Clearwings, Spangles etc., then
form a pattern of these colours in your stock.
Too many fanciers do not look at the family characteristics of the birds.
After all, the body, whether large or small, differs very little in basic
character structure. The head is the one part that makes the bird an
individual, so the most important 'fixed' feature or character is the head.
To develop a strain of birds, we must fix the desired quality in our birds.
Only by line breeding and in breeding can we guarantee the qualities will be
handed down from generation to generation. Do not breed with too many
out-crosses. They have a lot of hidden faults, which will not be seen. It can
take years to eliminate breeding faults. Not only do we have to remove the
fault, but fail to see other faults coming in our birds' make-up.
The dream and desire of every budgie fancier is to breed a stormer. These
do not develop from chance matings, or out-crosses. To produce one, we have to
plan our breeding team to fix good factors in our birds. Visual qualities are
very important if you want to win on the show bench. To make the judge put
your bird first, it must have the head qualities, so important for a second
look by the adjudicator. Width of skull is difficult to breed in, unless you
can purchase birds that possess it already. Depth of mask is very crucial when
breeding exhibition birds. We have to extend the mask but not too low in
comparison to the overall balance of the birds. Shallow masks are a bad
feature, even if the bird has good spots.
Spots play such an important part in the bird's appearance. They need to be
well spaced, round, and as large as the mask will allow for balance. Small
spots are a bad fault when viewing an exhibition bird. The distance from the
eye to the back of the head is difficult to breed in, unless you can obtain a
bird with this desirable feature. Lack of back skull does more harm to a good
bird than any other feature.
Theory of inheritance
When two birds are paired up, due to Mendel's theory of inheritance, a big
bird paired to a small bird does not produce a medium sized bird. Quite the
contrary, the larger bird does not fix his qualities upon the babies, it is
usually the smaller one who fixes poorer features on the youngsters. So, the
background of both the pairs is essential. The size of both birds, will, if
large, produce some excellent percentage of young, but if not a larger
proportion of smaller babies will be obtained.
It should be noted that females usually inherit characteristics from their
fathers, and males from their mothers. It is good policy to try and pair down,
that is, from a good male through his female offspring, which is known as line
breeding. Niece to uncle is another good pairing, as is nephew to aunt.
To establish a good stud of birds, which look like each other, the fancier
needs to have a relation on both sides of his pairs that have a link to other
pairs in his stock. The method of infiltration breeding is highly recommended.
It will fix a characteristic in both sides of the lines. If you use common
sense in selection, then you just need a little good luck.